Savignac Life magazine ad
Last week I posted a blog entry about logo design in which I noted my favorite logo design to be the “BIC Boy.” In the post I wrote a bit about the history of this iconic logo, noting that the original BIC® Boy was created by well-known French graphic designer, Raymond Savignac. At the conclusion of the post I promised a posting dedicated to this graphic artist. If you are unfamiliar with Savignac’s work, I hope this posting will educate you to a historical figure in the history of graphic design and his contributions to the art form.
Savignac in his studio - 1950s
Born in Paris in 1907, Savignac gained notoriety as the creator of numerous French advertising campaigns, including a famous one done for L’Oréal in 1948. Later, he began working with BIC, and in 1952 designed the Company’s very first advertising campaign: “elle court, elle court, la Pointe BIC®” (it runs, it runs, the BIC® point).
First BIC ad Savignac created
Savignac designed over 600 advertising posters and helped usher in a new age of optimism and consumerism in France after the end of the Second World War. His colorful and witty images for products such as Monsavon soap, Gitanes cigarettes, SNCF railways, Bic, Air France and Citroën cars came to embody the very idea of France to many foreigners.
Monsavon soap ad
Gitanes cigarette ad
SNCF Rail poster
another classic BIC ad
Over a fruitful career lasting 50 years, Savignac exhibited his work around the world and designed the official poster for the World Cup held in France in 1998. An advocate of the “less is more” approach, Savignac said, “Reading a poster must be instantaneous. In a fraction of a second, the man in the street must be able to understand it. Poster art is the creation of a fleeting image which people will not forget.”
In 1948, Savignac teamed up with the graphic designer Bernard Villemot and created a distinctive campaign for Monsavon soap. The ironic and iconic poster depicting a pink-and-white cow and its udders dripping milk into a giant bar of soap instantly caught the public’s imagination. “I was born at the age of 41, from the udder of the Monsavon cow,” claimed Savignac.
The Savignac Monsavon-au-lait Ad
Savignac was subsequently hired to help sell everything from Maggi soups to Vérigoud soft drinks and Dunlop tires via Cinzano, shoe-polish and painkillers (his groundbreaking Vite Aspro poster simply showed city traffic driving through a man’s head).
Aspro ad "Aspirin headache"
Savignac was equally at ease drawing film posters (La Guerre des boutons, 1962, and Alexandre le bienheureux, 1967, for the director Yves Robert; Lancelot du Lac, 1974, and L’Argent, 1983, for Robert Bresson), advertising forthcoming appearances by popular French comedians (Maurice Baquet, Raymond Devos) or promoting national newspapers (Le Figaro, Il Giorno). In 1969, Savignac designed the set and the costumes for a production of Molière’s L’Avare at the Comédie-Française while his dynamic work full of visual puns also proved popular in Japan, the United States, Germany and Britain.
“A poster creates the illusion if not of happiness, then at least of comfort and ease,” he told interviewers. “It is optimism at its most absurd: no more indigestion, no more unrequited love.”
Savignac railed against modern-day advertising techniques and their over-reliance on photographs rather than the broad, brash strokes he had pioneered. In an interview with Le Monde newspaper in 1996, he called himself an old brontosaurus who does a job that no longer exists.
YouTube has a wonderful video that details the graphic design work of Raymond Savignac. The video is about 10 minutes long but well worth the time. If you aren’t familiar with his work – you should be.
Many of Savignac’s posters can be found online here.
maggi pot au feu, 1960
Raymond Savignac died in Trouville-sur-Mer, France October 28, 2002.